Posts Tagged ‘tradistan’

understated trad grades

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Simon Cahill sent me this note on a multi-pitch route at Sentinel:

Just had a great couple of days out with Maddie, day 1 climbed a route on the sentinel, can’t remember the name something like Kasarkstan [actually: Kharzang] and is route number 1 in your book. The grade given is v-diff. It’s a great climb but at v-diff is way off and potentially dangerous as a good severe leader would have an epic. I think it’s pretty solid VS with a lot of 4b climbing and I had to work the crux several times to get it so I think probably 4c ….I talked to Ralph about it this morning and he thought it was an HVS horror, not that bad but not V-diff. I think any update of the guidebook should include a serious regrade.

The descriptions and grades for trad routes were in most cases taken verbatim from Alan Stark’s PDF guide (I bought the copyright from Alan). Those descriptions were in turn mostly taken direct from first ascentionist’s accounts. Many routes have only had one ascent. John Gregory did review the text to some extent before publication, but it is reasonably likely that there are some other errors in there. However, thankfully this is the first error of this magnitude (2 -3 Brit trad grades difference) that has been identified. Be careful out there! Generally, in my opinion, as spelled out in the introduction to the guidebook, UAE trad should be approached with caution, especially on first acquaintance.

some updates

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012


3Somes is the area midway up the gully left of centre. Viewed from the Wadi Shahah road.

Ralph Heath has uploaded details of some of the new crags he has developed in RAK over the last few years to SummitPost. A mix of trad and sport.


Zombie Skull


Birthday Crag

I repeated some of the 3Somes routes about a year ago: some good stuff there.

Maurizio Piccoli has been busy repeating routes in Wadi Ghalilah, including Acquiescence and Exit Surprise (maybe the third ascent – I blogged about the second ascent last year). He sent me a hand-drawn topo for Exit Surprise that may be useful for some people. Again it seems the guidebook’s E2 is a very low grade estimate for the route … it sounds like E3 at least.

I also now have a written account of routes done in Musandam by the TNF/ Nat Geo team. I am hoping to obtain some photos to go with it. Then I will upload it.

reworked Acquiescence topo

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

the last moves of pitch one of Acquiescence

Someone took an interest in my route Acquiescence in Wadi Ghalilah recently. This reminded me that neither the topo on the website nor the description in the guidebook (from when the route was still a project) are very good. I have uploaded an improved PDF topo here.

Obviously as the first ascentionist I would write this, but: factoring in the rock quality, the easy approach and the amazing cliff architecture I think Acquiescence is a strong contendor for the best route in the UAE. Anyone up to the job should go do it.

EDIT: as far as I know the route has only had three ascents so far. Greg and I got the FA in late 2009, then Andy LaBonte and Nasim Eshqi repeated it in early 2010 then Daniel Cieszynski and Aiden Laffey did it later in 2010.

mystery Cleavage route and other RAK notes

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Yesterday Dave Watson, Paul du Toit and I did a midsummer tour around the Roadside and Wadi Shahah area. I redpointed the mystery bolted line left of Hanging Haemorrhoid at the Cleavage. Unless anyone else claims it and has a name, I am calling it Lidocaine (*). The grade is F6c or F6c+. Hanging Haemorrhoid is slightly harder than it used to be since the removal of the cheat blocks underneath, maybe F6b+ or F6c.

Dave Watson on Hanging Haemorrhoid. Lidocaine is the line to the left.

A few other notes:

- the excellent Thug Monkey at Roadside needs a proper lower-off.

- Dave managed an almost-redpoint of Pokemon at Roadside despite the heat. Grade estimates for this route continue to vary wildly. Dave thought the guidebook grade F7b+ seemed about right.

- Crackrocksteady (Andy La Bonte’s E3 + F7b right of Tim’s Tipple) at Nearside is no longer climbable in its original form as a huge starting block has been removed by the Shahah road crew.

- I plan a topo for John Gregory’s Transition crag in Shahah when he has reached a suitable stopping point – October?


(* I have changed my mind on the name a few times, but I think this is my last edit. 14 Aug 2012)

One new topo

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Aiden has sent me this description for his late December 2011 route “The Gambler” in Wadi Ghalilah.

In case anyone is wondering, this is what I know to be missing from the topo archive (and not in the guidebook) at the moment:
- John Gregory’s routes at Transition in Wadi Shahah
- various new crags and routes (trad and sport) of Ralph Heath’s around the RAK area
- some bouldering areas developed by instructors at Al Shaheen in RAK
- no doubt some routes by the same guys around RAK as well
- Good Morning Helena crag in the Buraimi area
- some routes of Theo Giani’s at NPZ near Al Ain
- some routes of mine at Tawiyan
- a few DWS routes done since the update last summer
- about twenty routes in a secret location near Dibba
- Strip Club near Wadi Hilti

new topos

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

I have just uploaded five new topos to the new route page. Here is a list of the new stuff with direct links:

Beyond RAK
- Aiden’s Snakecharmer, the huge Ghalilah face of Jebel Ras Al Qays

RAK Inland
- a 3D (yes: 3D!) update to the Cube boulder
- the Little Princess on Red Wall mentioned yesterday

Dibba Inland
- the Blindspot crag

Al Ain
- Paul’s (no longer) Secret Boulders. Be discreet at this one.

new Wadi Nakhab route

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

In a bid to unite the squabbling climbing tribes of camel-land (*), Andy La Bonte and Aiden Laffey have produced another route on the Red Wall in Wadi Nakhab with something for everyone: a ground-up first ascent style, hard bolted sport, trad cracks, short pitches and long pitches, summit register, even a contribution from the legendary John Gregory. Due to the uncompromising FA style, the route took several months to complete (imagine bolting F7b on lead …)

The topo for Little Princess 140m E3 and F7b is here. The route is left of and parallel to Andy and Pete Thompson’s 2010 route Vertical Vice.

A few photos thanks to Andrew Stelmach

The team

The sport bit (which ominously mentions reach – Andy is about 3 metre tall)

Aiden jamming

* actually this probably wasn’t their motivation …

Second ascent of Exit Surprise

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Last Friday Aiden Laffey and Philippe Delaunay made the probable second ascent of Exit Surprise on Shady Circus cliff in Wadi Ghalilah. Superficially climbing a six pitch E2 may not seem very remarkable but this route’s reputation has been rising after multiple abandoned attempts. Aiden had retreated off it four times previously: twice with Gen Boni, once with Andy LaBonte (Andy got offroute beyond the 4th pitch crux traverse and took a long fall on to old pitons), and once with Philippe (having solved the crux traverse they realised they needed larger cams for the 5th pitch).

Current thinking is that the first ascentionist Antoine Fabre probably used some aid on the traverse and so far it hasn’t been possible to climb it 100% free.

Philippe at the exposed stance before the crux traverse

The 5th pitch was found to be climbable in line with the guidebook description, though apparently the “Surprise” exit hole at the top of the pitch is quite tight and intimidating to reach.

Aiden at the steep move on pitch 5 before the chimney leading to the exit hole

With hindsight it would have been better to qualify some of the long trad routes described in full in the guidebook with a symbol to indicate that the the first ascentionists’ description had not yet been checked. Some UK guides use a dagger mark for that purpose. Something to consider if there is ever any momentum for a second edition. At least the book gives Exit Surprise E2 rather than the E1 in the previous PDF guide! And the three star quality rating seems to be correct.

Both photos © Aiden Laffey

2010/2011 season wrap

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Shockingly a whole year has passed since I wrote the 2009/2010 report. But as I brought things up to date in January, there’s not a huge amount to add. As last year, in chapter order:


Still neglected AFAIK.


Pete Thompson went back to his Stairway Headwall route with Pete Myers in February and made a one-day ascent. The route is now called Black Dog.


John Gregory has been cleaning and climbing new routes at Transition, another area in Wadi Shahah. No details available yet. Apparently Ralph Heath and friends have also been developing routes elsewhere in Wadi Shahah. No details available.


Very neglected. More reports of people failing to gain access even using the Dibba approach.


Lots of action at Tawiyan, both new routes and repeats, all noted in a February blog post.


Gordon Rech and friends have added more new stuff at The Narrows and also have a secret hard project on the go elsewhere in Wadi Khab Shamis. Matt Pfeifer completed the excellent slopey steep project at the Strip Club at about F7b, after quite a lot of effort. No name forthcoming so far. I made the second ascent in April.


The main excitement was the strong Brit/ Canuck team visiting in April, about which I have already written extensively and added an update guide. A few new routes have been added since their visit, notably at The Salt Mine, by Matt Pfeifer, Jose Molina and I.


At Hatta I climbed the trad crack project near Open Wide and Say Ahh in February.

Theo Giani has been bolting new stuff at NPZ. No details yet.

The Red Armada Publishing Ascent of the Season should probably go to Read Macadam for his first ascent of Parthian Slots F8a on the Dibba Coast, especially given the sponsored-heros snapping at his heels. But Matt Pfeifer deserves an honourable mention for his rapid progress through the grades within 18 months of starting to climb: two F7b+ redpoints and an F7b new route. Similarly Maddy Stocks has reached F6c within less than a year.

If anyone knows of anything significant I have missed, please let me know.

2010/2011 mid-season update

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I thought it might be worth updating on some of what’s been going on in the winter season so far. It’s mostly from RAK, as the sport climbing tribe have been (admirably) focused on repeating routes recently.


In Wadi Shahah, the Gregory quarrying/ climbing machine continues to operate productively. A new cliff, Farside, has been opened opposite Nearside, with several routes. Descriptions here. Andy LaBonte has climbed a hard new partially-bolted route (Crack Rock Steady, F7b + E3 at the start) at Nearside. I have no other details but I am fairly sure it is just right of Tim’s Tipple.

Elsewhere in the wadi I also have update details for Yellow House, including new star ratings and descent details and one new route. Apparently consensus is that the rock quality is unusually good. The Far Right area at Dickinadozer is now known as the Zombie Skull sector. Some additional anchors and tidying-up has taken place – I am not sure of the precise details.


In Wadi Ghalilah, adherents of the noble art of chossaneering have been busy. Ben Ranson (*) has climbed the giant 1000m (!) Ghalilah Headwall right of Stairway to Heaven in two stages.  The topo is here. As mentioned late last year, Aiden Laffey added Wadi Roulette near the Shady Circus area. More recently he and Andy LaBonte repeated the 600m Barun Wall route (original description here), probably by a slightly different line to the original ascent. Looks bold, committing and – no surprise – loose.


Mid-summer 2010 Gordon Rech and friends started work on a new sector, The Narrows, a long way up Wadi Khab Shamis. There are four sport routes from F5 to F6b so far.


As previously noted, Aiden and I climbed The Pyramid.


There’s also some new stuff at Hatta Crag. Sadly I don’t have details at the moment, though I know they include a F7a eliminate through Spiderpig, another F7a on the back side of the same buttress and two lines left of Tadaima.


Solomon Lau passed me details of two new problems at Wonderwall. In other news, Gordon Rech made the probable second ascent of Ninja Smartypants on the Monkey Bars block.

If anyone knows of anything else, please let me know.

* whoops,  I mean Peter Thompson ;-)